Huntley school board rejects proposal to host graduation at Willow Creek because of church’s stance on homosexuality

The Huntley School District 158 board rejected a proposal Thursday to host a high school graduation at Willow Creek Church in South Barrington following concern from the public about its stance on homosexuality.

The district proposed hosting the 2022 Huntley High School graduation at Willow Creek this spring because the venue was more convenient for school families, provided a better logistical setting and was more affordable. Public concern about the nondenominational Christian church’s position on homosexuality caused board members to think twice.

“Our sole intention is to provide our families with the best possible venue in which to celebrate the tremendous accomplishment of graduation from high school,” District 158 Superintendent Scott Rowe said in response to the public concern.

Board members said they received several messages from community members last week asking them not to consider Willow Creek as a graduation location.

“It’s not enough to say that ‘other school districts have used Willow Creek for graduation ceremonies,’” said Paula Yensen, a McHenry County Board member and president of the McHenry County National Organization for Women. “Other school districts are free to make their own decisions based on their values.”

Both Hoffman Estates and Barrington high schools host graduation at the church.

At question was a statement in Willow Creek’s 2020 Elder Statement stating, “It is important to distinguish between sinful tendencies and sinful practice. One may be inclined to theft or violence or addiction – but the more important question is whether one acts on those inclinations. The same is true of sexual morality. What we do with the tendencies inside our hearts defines us morally. To have same-sex attraction is quite different from seeking same-sex partners or viewing same-sex pornography and acting out.”

Opponents argued the church does not welcome members of the LGBTQ+ community. Several board members said they initially were in favor of hosting graduation at Willow Creek until community members informed them of the church’s past statement.

“We in no way want to make any student feel marginalized by our district choices,” Rowe said.

Willow Creek could not be reached for comment Monday.

One father of District 158 students, Andy Liggett, said he has been to Willow Creek and never saw evidence of what opponents of the proposal alleged, arguing they were mischaracterizing the church.

“The church is supposed to love everybody so don’t have these preconceived notions,” he said.

Willow Creek would have been Huntley High School’s fourth graduation location in the last 10 years. It was held at the Sears Center in Hoffman Estates until 2014, Northern Illinois University in DeKalb until 2019 and the high school football field in 2021.

Rowe told the board earlier this month that Willow Creek was an affordable option for the district at $15,000 – significantly less than the $28,000 the Sears Center charged, while NIU was $12,000.

High school Principal Marcus Belin told the board Thursday the set up and logistics of hosting the ceremony on the football field were very costly and also required them to host multiple ceremonies.

The future of the high school’s graduation is again up in the air. Rowe said earlier this month the school likely could negotiate a new deal with NIU if necessary, and said on Thursday that officials would take a look at their options, including the Sears Center, which now is known as NOW Arena.

The district is hoping to incorporate feedback from school families to find a location that can accommodate large crowds without too many limits on how many people can attend and is closer to Huntley than NIU, Rowe said.

“Regardless of where we will celebrate our graduates come May 2022, I can promise you we will continue to work together to commemorate our students’ time at Huntley 158 the best way possible,” he said.

via Shaw Local

December 20, 2021 at 08:22PM

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